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‘I offer myself as President’

SENATOR Grace Poe announced  Wednesday  night she would run for President in 2016, ending months of speculation and becoming the third politician to declare a bid for the highest office in the land.

“I, Grace Poe, a Filipino, a daughter and a wife, and with the help of God, am offering myself for higher service as your president,” said Poe shortly after  7 p.m.  in front of enthusiastic supporters who gathered at the Bahay ng Alumni in UP Diliman, Quezon City.

Poe’s mother, actress Susan Roces, and the senator’s husband Neil Llamanzares and their children, and celebrities from the entertainment industry were among those who witnessed Poe’s announcement.

She’s running. Senator Grace Poe waves to her supporters at the UP-Diliman on Wednesday, when she announced her candidacy for the presidency. Lino Santos

In her speech, Poe recalled that when her father, the late Fernando Poe Jr., ran for President in 2004, he was belittled because he has no experience.

She said her father’s citizenship was also questioned in the same way hers was being challenged now by her detractors.

But Poe insisted she is a Filipino citizen and said she had the documents to substantiate her status.

Poe said her father fearlessly faced the challenge and did not turn away from the opportunity to help improve the lives of Filipinos.

She said her father’s loyalty, courage and generosity inspired and guided her.

“And my mother told me: In all the political noise, don’t get lost.”

After spelling out some 20 programs of government she intended to pursue, the neophyte senator assured her supporters that under her leadership, everybody’s lives would improve, and that nobody would be left behind.

She recalled that her father always told her that a person’s rise from poverty was in his own hands, but there should also be another hand pulling him up.

Vowing to continue the government’s fight against corruption, she took a dig at the Liberal Party candidate Manuel Roxas II, who said  Tuesday  that Poe could not run on her own and claim to follow the straight path.

“No one group or person has a monopoly on the right path,” she said. “We should continue and boost the war against corruption. I will hold liable all who are corrupt, friends or enemies,” she said.

She also vowed to pass a Freedom of Information law to ensure government transparency.

Among her goals as president would be to lower tax rates and the cost of electricity and to address the problems of mass transportation and traffic congestion, she said.

She also said she would work to improve Internet service in the country and boost the capability of the Coast Guard and the Armed Forces to protect Philippine territory from foreign encroachment.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party, said Poe’s announcement was expected.

“I told you so, she will run,” Drilon said.

President Benigno Aquino III and Roxas had tried but failed several times to recruit Poe to run for vice president in an alliance with the Liberal Party.

Drilon said Poe’s presidential bid was no more of a threat than other candidates.

“We will face them all because we will run under a clean, and straight path. That’s our platform. I don’t know what path they are going to take. That’s their problem,” he said.

With Poe out of the picture, Roxas is now talking to other prospective vice presidents, including Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo and Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano.

“They are talking. Maybe we will know before the end of the month who will be the running mate of Secretary Mar,” Drilon said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the more candidates there are, the better.

“The bigger the field, the more choices for us. Better to have a surplus of aspirants than a shortage,” he said.

“It is within this context—of how pluralism in politics will do us good—that I welcome Senator Grace’s courageous move to submit her application letter for the highest office in the land,” Recto said.

He added that her presentation of her platform of government could be a cue that the run-up to the 2016 elections will be marked by a serious disussion of issues “away from the pettiness of gutter politics.”

Recto’s wife, Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto, has been cool to invitations to run as Roxas’ vice president.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also wished Poe the best of luck.

“I suppose it’s not a surprise. But what it does for the rest of us is that it clarifies a little bit the political situation for 2016,” said Marcos, who denied rumors that he would announce his candidacy on  Sept. 20  at the Philippine Arena where people would be paid P4,500 to attend.

“This is not true and will never happen. To set the record straight, I have never instructed, ordered, encouraged, or allowed any individual or group to invite people to the supposed activity. Neither have members of my family, relatives, close friends, and staff done so,” Marcos said.

“I believe that this false advisory is intentional and is meant to destroy me,” he added.

“I am calling on people not to entertain, much less believe, this lie propagated by unscrupulous groups out to put my name in a bad light. The truth about my plans in 2016 will only come from me and no one else. No one is authorized to speak on my behalf regarding my plans,” he added.

Poe’s family arrived ahead of the senator at the Bahay ng Alumni  Wednesday  afternoon, where movies of her father were being shown.

Among those who came to support Poe were fans of her late father belonging to the Filipino for Peace, Justice and Progress Movement that backed the actor’s presidential bid in 2004.

Tarpaulins and posters of “Grace Poe 2016,” Sama-sama Poe,” Tuloy na Poe, “Eto na Poe,” “Maasahan Poe, “Matapang Poe,” Tapat na Poe,” “Ampunin Natin PO,” and “All4GP” were strewn all over the venue.

Ex-Parañaque City representative Roilo Golez, former executive secretary Ronaldo Zamora, ex-Partido ng Manggagawang Pilipino representative Renato Magtubo, and ex-An Waray representative Bem Noel were also at the event.

Roces told reporters that she supported whatever her daughter’s decision would be.

“I know she knows what she is doing... May God guide her in what He thinks would be best for the nation,” she said.

“I cannot give her any [political] advice on what she would plan to do. My responsibility is to be a mother to her and a grandmother to her children. Beyond that, I cannot interfere,” she added.

A day after Poe’s announcement, her presumptive running mate, Senator Francis Escudero, will announce his plans for 2016.

A media advisory released by his office said Escudero would make the announcement  Sept. 17 at 10 a.m.  at the Kalayaan Hall of Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan.

Poe and Escudero are expected to run as independents, with the support of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the second largest political party.

In the Palace, a presidential spokesman said Poe’s slogan “Bagong Umaga” (new morning) is clearly different from the Aquino administration’s battle cry of “Daang Matuwid” (straight path) for the 2016 elections.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Liberal Party would run on platforms, not on personalities, then suggested that Poe is no longer advocating the principles of the straight path.

“She’s talking about change. We’re running on a platform of continuity,” Lacierda said.

“For every country, if you look at the Asian countries that have prospered, it’s because the good economic policies have continued. We have done more than promoting good economic policies. We have also increased our poverty alleviation program,” Lacierda added.

With or without Poe, people will vote to continue the straight path reforms of President Aquino by voting for Roxas, he added.

Lacierda also dismissed as speculation reports that some Cabinet members will support Poe.

“We have not received any news of that sort, so I can’t comment on speculation,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said Aquino will campaign for Roxas, including on trips the President makes in the provinces.

“The President will campaign for his candidate. Yes, he will play a front and center role in the campaign because after all, this is a referendum on daang matuwid,” he added.

 

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